Monday, February 4, 2013

Restaurant News you can use....

I know, I know, it's been a long time since I've posted.  I am sorry, way too much has happened and I've had trouble managing it all.  I've sold my home and bought another one.  Making that happen was a new cliff hanger a day.  It was a difficult sale but without the help of my agent, Michelle Tucker at William Raveis Realty in Osterville, I wouldn't have had a sale.  And she helped me find the perfect new house too.  Thanks, Michelle!

I've had a very sick family member and my dog almost died from DKA and is now diabetic.  Thank you so much Dr. Tom Burns and staff at Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod for saving him and helping me thru this.  My schedule has been filled up with school and modeling jobs.  Somehow life got in the way of writing.  Many of these things are still on the table, along with a new home rehab that is underway.  Forever indebted to Jim Bird and crew at Windjammer Building and Remodeling for making this as easy as it can be.  But seriously, I am going to really try and start posting again.

So my first post is mostly about gluten free restaurant news.  However if you are not gluten free, please keep reading as I talk about food and who doesn't love that?

Let's start with the Beach Tree Cantina on Main Street in Hyannis.  I raved about that place last spring, I really enjoyed it and one of my favorite bartenders from The Islander at Crosby Boat Yard, Caitlyn, started working there (not any longer sadly).  The food was great, the crowd was fun, and I had a lot of GF choices to nosh on.  However once the huge outdoor area opened and the weather warmed up, I didn't go as often.  I don't know what happened to me... I use to love big noisy crowds (when I was like 21!) but it was just too loud and crazy for me outside, not to mention I hate plastic cups.  Something about getting a high priced margarita in a plastic beer cup that doesn't appeal to me.  And that margarita didn't taste as good as it use to.  Did they change the recipe or was it the plastic?

One night I went with friends and we sat outside, which was fun until the crowd picked up.  I noticed that that crowd quickly got a lot younger.  Then we had to yell to hear each other, the noise level went way up (outdoor area was mobbed and there was music).  Every 2 minutes people would cut in between us to get their drinks (we always sit at the bar) which invariably would spill a little bit on me.  By the end of the evening I was hoarse from yelling, sticky from drink spills, and bruised from all the jostling.  Maybe I'm chilling out more as I get older but I didn't go back there all summer long, I was hoping that after Labor Day it would settle down a bit.

And it did, so I was hopeful because it's a nice place with decent food.  I was inside at the bar with a friend and went to order a few of the items on the menu I knew were gluten free.  As usual I told the bartender there I needed to be gluten free and he said, "I'm sorry we don't have anything that is gluten free."  Huh, you use to?  Another employee came over to talk to me and said the only thing I could order was a salmon salad.  I did order that and it was great but I'd like a few more choices.   I find this a little bit odd because Mexican food almost always has naturally gluten free options, like chips and salsa, or enchiladas which are made from corn tortillas.  But no, now nothing is gluten free.  I don't know when they made that decision but I'm not happy with it.  I hope this isn't a trend.

I'm always astounded when a restaurant makes a decision like, we won't do any allergy meals or gluten free meals.  That is leaving out a huge percentage of the eating population.  Which brings me to The Lanes at Mashpee Commons.  I was so excited for them to open.  My mom lives near the Commons and I have a few friends in Falmouth so we always meet in the middle in Mashpee.  I love the restaurants that are already at both sides of the Commons but I'm always happy to welcome a new place, especially one that has something else to do in it - bowling!

I was there with my friend Linda and my daughter a few weekends ago.  We had had dinner at Siena (they do wonderful gluten free) and we walked over to see what the Lanes looked like.  It looked fun!  There was a huge, fun crowd (but not so huge that it put me off) that included people of all ages.  All of them were having fun, eating, drinking, mingling and bowling.  We had just eaten dinner so we decided to check out how long the wait was for bowling - over an hour.  I think this place is going to be a hit.  It is owned by the folks that own Bobby Burns.

I was looking forward to going again soon, earlier so we could eat there and then bowl.  Therein lies the problem.  I emailed them about what they might have that is gluten free and they got back to me saying that they don't do gluten free at all.   They said that it is a small kitchen and they felt it would be difficult to control cross contamination, that they didn't not want to offer it if they couldn't do it right.

Ten years ago I would have said, "well that makes sense."  Today, not so much.  When I first went gluten free very few places offered any sort of gluten free food many because they were afraid of that cross contamination issue.  However since then I have gotten more restaurant savvy and I can name many places that have tiny kitchens and still offer a few gluten free choices.  It isn't difficult to have a pan or two that you use to cook a piece of fish in or a chicken breast in.  A baked potato is gluten free, a salad, even a bunless burger.

I can specifically name 2 Cape pizza places that do mainly pizza - pizza made from wheat flour and they offer gluten free pizza too.  There is flour flying around their kitchens every day, all day and yet they easily manage to serve me gluten free pizza every week and I've never ever been glutened at either  of them (and one has a tiny kitchen too).  So when a restaurant tells me it's too hard to do, I'm confused.  I can't remember the last time I went into a restaurant and they couldn't offer me even one GF choice... it was at least 8 years ago (heck even Beach Tree has that salmon salad).

So I won't be going to the Lanes very often, I'm very sorry to say.   Maybe they will let me bring in a take-out pizza from one of the pizza places I go to.  But for those of you that don't have to be gluten free or have any allergy issues it looks like a lot of fun.  It's cool and hip, check it out.

Next up is Bistrot de Soleil on Stevens Street in Hyannis.  They are in the spot that use to be Harry's.  I think, since Harry's closed, there have been a couple of restaurants or businesses in this spot that didn't make it.  So with that bias I went in to meet my gang of friends there one night because one of them was having a birthday.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The set up of the place is jazzed up but basically the same layout as the "new, old Harry's" (remember the old one was torn down and they built and opened in the new one?)  It's very nice inside.  The bar area is small but lively and the bartenders are good.  They greet you right way, the bar table service is fast, all good.

I'm pretty sure I've seen ads in the Cape Cod Times for them that says they do vegetarian and gluten free food.  They do and they are indicated right on the regular menu (which you can see online).  I've been there twice now and both times I liked it.  The food was good too.  I had a Risotto the first time and the other night I had the Short Rib with a great red wine sauce, it was excellent.  The service was great, food was very tasty, atmosphere was cozy and warm.  The first time we were there it was a Monday night and not very busy.  This last time was a Friday night and I'm glad I got there early.  Both the restaurant and bar were full.  The crowd was a good mix of people of all ages.  I'll be going back again soon.

Last but not least is Columbo's on Main Street in Hyannis.  When it first opened I went there a number of times and over the years have been a customer but they were not hugely gluten friendly back then.  They always found things for me to eat but without any sort of GF menu it involved a lot of back and forth with the kitchen and not a lot of options.

Well that has changed they now have a GF menu.  It isn't extensive but it is good.   I've always liked the restaurant, it has ample parking, and it's just a nice space.  It always has been a lively crowd with a good vibe and it still is.  I've been there a few times in the past couple of months and have really enjoyed it every time.

The bartender also worked at The Islander at Crosby Boat Yard (a fav of mine in the summer) a few years back and sadly I'm drawing a blank on his name (I'm so sorry, I honestly have name dyslexia) but he's a really nice guy and a great bartender.  He recognized me right away from The Islander and was attentive all evening long.

It is my understanding they have had the GF menu for a while now and they use to also offer GF pasta but they don't any more, very sad.  I have asked for it each time I've been there and I hope you do too because maybe if we keep asking they will bring it back!  After all it can't be that hard to store a couple of boxes of GF pasta, right (I'm not in the restaurant business so it probably isn't quite that easy but I hope they reconsider the pasta thing)?

The first time there I ordered a few items directly off the menu and they were all excellent.  The second time I noticed a couple of dishes on the specials menu that should be GF so I asked if they were.  After a trip to the kitchen and a conversation with the chef the answer was yes, so I had a risotto special.  Excellent!  The chef clearly knows his business... both GF and good food.  I'm a regular there now and looking forward to going back again soon.

It is my understanding that Columbo's is owned by the same "family" that owns the Black Cat, the Roadhouse and Beach Tree Cantina!  I don't know if the Roadhouse and Black Cat currently have GF menus, I'll have to check that out soon but I can tell you I've eaten at both places and they have always worked with me to provide me with great GF options.  So why can't they do it at Beach Tree Cantina?  Maybe being owned by the same "family" isn't the same as being run by the same people.  Shrugs.  Either way, I love Columbo's now.

So, that's my latest update.  I'm updating my gluten free dining on Cape Cod list too and working on a guide for going gluten free when you are first diagnosed.  If you have any restaurant news please let me know!

** PS:  Since I mention Harry's I want to tell you that they are on Willow Street now.  I haven't been there yet but I heard it was the same chef and good music.  I have no idea of they do GF but I'll try and find out!

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